September 2, 2014

Standish depot facing budget crunch

Looking at ways to improve coffers

Posted
107 N. Main St.
Standish, Mi 48658

STANDISH — The Standish Historical Depot is facing a cash crunch unless payments from local municipalities come through.

The Arenac County Heritage Route Authority, which operates the depot, had $1,926 in its coffers, according to a financial report from its Jan. 7 meeting. Jo Ann Swartz, who served as the authority’s treasurer until retiring at the same meeting during the election of officers, told the Independent it usually costs between $1,500 and $2,000 to run the depot each month.

“That’s for lights, heat, the phones, and water,” Swartz said. “So we’re looking at different avenues (for raising money).”

The authority paid the bare minimum in bills in December: $468 for Consumers Energy, $206 to Charter Business, and $700 in paychecks. That amount came out of the remaining money in the account, leaving a balance of $551.

Authority President Curt Hillman said that while the funds are low, that is a normal situation at this time of year, when the Heritage Route Authority reaches the end of its fiscal year.

“At the end of the budget year it looks like you’ve got nothing,” he said.

Swartz said the authority sent out its bills to the cities and townships that are signed on as members. All 13 governmental units in the county are allowed to take part in meetings and send as many as three representatives to vote, but currently only 10 do so.

Swartz explained the bills are for varying amounts in each municipality, depending entirely on their population. Each member community pays 50 cents per resident to the depot.

“Every time the population changes, it changes the bill for the townships,” she said.

The leadership of each community needs to approve the bill and pay it, and while Swartz said she hopes they do so at their first respective board or council meetings, the bill payments have historically come in at some point between January and April.

Omer Mayor Alice Sproule, representing Omer at the authority, said the Arenac County Board of Commissioners has agreed to make its annual payment of $8,000, though it included a letter notifying the authority it may need to cut funding next year. The county has sent the same letter out in previous years in case it is unable to afford the payment, as a legal formality.

Aside from those, Swartz said the depot runs a few events throughout the year to raise a little bit of additional revenue: the Diamonds, Denim and Camo dinner is a big source of additional income, and the depot also tries to break even or come out ahead with its summer concert series and Depot Days festival.

The 17 representatives who attended the Jan. 7 meeting also brainstormed new fundraising ideas. Swartz proposed an auction which would include a painting done at a recent Michigan Townships Association meeting, while Arenac Township Clerk Cindy Halamar suggested organizing a special bus trip to visit antique stores. No decision was made on new projects to pursue.

No discussion was made on the possibility of adjusting the depot’s hours, and Hillman said it is already operating on its winter hours. He said cutting building hours may not accomplish much more at this point, since it would still need to pay its heating bills to keep the building from freezing. He did suggest the authority may look at water usage in the summer and advertising spending as places to cut back until the authority can build up its coffers again through more fundraising opportunities.

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